Why Does BALPA Not Want You To Become A Pilot?

Pilot in the cockpit - Aviatorsbuzz
Representational image of a pilot in the cockpit. Source: Aaron Puttmann/@pilotstories

The British Airline Pilots Association or BALPA, has warned prospective pilots from starting any training courses, saying they would be left with huge debts and no prospect of employment.

Trainee pilots could end up owing more than £1,00,000 and would not find a job to pay back loans, the union was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

About 200 trainee pilots in UK flight schools who were set for jobs with easyJet have already had their conditional offers of employment withdrawn, after the airline looked to cut hundreds of pilot jobs in the summer as the effects of COVID-19 battered the industry.

BALPA said it was an extraordinary step for them to issue the warning, but it would be irresponsible not to act.

The Guardian quoted Wendy Pursey, its head of membership and careers, said there were about 10,000 unemployed commercial pilots across Europe, including 1,600 in the United Kingdom, while many others were working part-time or on reduced pay. The easyJet trainees now had “no clear route to even a licence, far less a job”, she said.

Others attempting to enter the aviation industry have been hard hit, including 122 trainee air traffic controllers at NATS being laid off before gaining a licence.

The difficulties were underlined by British Airways telling staff on Thursday that many more of them would be placed on furlough, as the airline scales back flights through November. Its few remaining long-haul services from Gatwick will be suspended.

Under the lockdown rules that came into effect on Thursday, all holiday or leisure travel is banned with fines for breaches starting at £200.

Immediate Compulsory Layoffs

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has warned pilots of immediate compulsory layoffs this week as demand for air travel fails to recover as quickly as expected from the coronavirus crisis.

The warning in a letter to pilots, seen by Reuters, comes a day after the state airline said it was pushing on with plans to shrink to a mid-sized carrier.

“The hard reality is that, despite all hopes, our industry is simply not recovering quick enough and we will continue to be a much smaller airline for some time,” pilots were told in an email distributed on Monday.

“Based on all these factors, it has become clear that we have no choice but to further reduce our workforce.”

An Etihad spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

In what indicates the effects of COVID-19 on the pilot community across the globe, last week, Dubai-based Emirates offered some of its pilots unpaid leave for a year. “We can confirm that we have offered some of our pilots unpaid leave for 12 months, with the possibility of an early recall back to duty depending on how quickly demand rebounds and our operational requirements,” an Emirates spokeswoman said as reported by The Economic Times.

Most Emirates’ employees are foreigners, meaning they are not eligible for government benefits in the United Arab Emirates where the airline is headquartered and operates from. Emirates would continue to provide accommodation, medical cover and other allowances to those on unpaid leave, the spokeswoman said.

Emirates has cut thousands of jobs this year, including pilots and flight attendants, while also cutting salaries and asking staff to take unpaid leave.

Etihad employed nearly 2,000 pilots as of February, according to its website. Sources have said hundreds of staff, including some pilots, had been laid off before the latest cuts.

Pilots were told in the email that “a variety of other options” tried by the airline were not enough to keep the business strong and that its current workforce was “simply too large.”

Affected pilots would be notified within 24 hours, it said, without saying how many would lose their jobs.

The group representing most of the world’s airlines, the International Air Transport Association, has consistently said that air traffic had failed to recover as quickly as expected.


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